Innovation is a buzz word nowadays. From business innovation to the way we live, study and work, time is putting constraints of how we define ourselves. We are no longer talking about a life-work balance, but more about merging personal with professional, about democratic education and living a life true to our passions. We are even talking about disrupting oneself.
Innovation in business
Moreover in a business context, we are starting to use and think about more user-centered services, lean practices and design thinking. Why all these? Because the way we used to do it, namely build after requirements and long documents, make use of one's high-status person opinion or creating after reading "best practices", does not work anymore. We are learning that in order for our business to succeed, we have to look at one of the most important actors in the scheme of things: the user or the client. Designing for the target audience and with their needs in mind has more chances of success. Also this old way it takes too much time and effort; now we are trying more to work with fast iterations and learning from quick experiments.
7 success factors when implementing innovation
I personally follow Dr. Susan Weinschenk work, as she frequently discusses and teaches people about innovation. She discusses 7 critical success factors when implementing innovation. These are:
1) Iteration. If you are trying out a new idea in your organization, Dr. Susan suggests to check if the culture of the organization allows or is ok with iterating, meaning testing the idea out and if it fails, to be able to learn from that and test until you succeed. I would talk in this context more about how do we build resilience in this case? Resilience in an organization would suggest a mindset in which failure is seen as an opportunity, checking what worked and what didn't and bounce back to testing new ideas. Not getting frustrated by failure, but learning from it.
2) A-ha moment. Sometimes telling people what to do is not as efficient as letting them discover by themselves. Try to offer the company opportunities or trainings where they can try for themselves the new ideas. Letting the people from the organization become active in the innovation process goes a long way.
3) Autonomy. Related to the a-ha moment above, people need to have a sense of mastery and control when implementing something new, to be able to decide when and where they can learn and experiment.
4) Constraints. Research on how to foster creativity talks about the importance of giving people some kind of constraints when creating. This will help them stay more focused on the task and also provide them with some guidelines.
5) Top-down and bottom-up. Here, Dr. Susan talks about the necessity to have the same mindset regarding innovation at both the top and bottom level of the organization. If people at the top do not look at innovation in a positive way or do not agree with it, or vice versa, it is hard to proceed and to convince one part of the innovation necessity. A growth mindset is good to be encouraged in all levels of the company, at least in some groups of people belonging to both levels.
6) Trust. In a corporate environment if you have trust issues, it is really hard to implement innovation. Focusing on fostering an environment of trust and open communication would help embracing innovation. Having trust means people will be more open to give feedback and not be afraid to express their opinions.
7) Use innovation to plan innovation. When planning for innovation and trying to implement design thinking or lean practices, you can make use of the same principles you are focused on achieving. For example, you can use design thinking practices to plan and research your take on how to implement innovation. If you want to learn more design thinking, you can look at this kit for human-centered design.
For more information, below is Dr. Susan's video about 7 success factors when implementing innovation.
You can follow Dr. Susan's Weinschenk blog to keep yourself informed with latest brain tricks for design, business innovation and more.